Cate McCurry and Dominic McGrath, PA
The Taoiseach has said the Government is committed to “enhancing” the compensation scheme for families affected by mica.
Speaking to reporters in New York, Micheál Martin said the Government is aiming to have talks on a redress scheme finished by the end of the month, with a proposal brought to Cabinet in early October.
Earlier, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the Government had “ruled out nothing” in relation to its mica redress scheme.
Mr McGrath said “everything is on the table” when helping homeowners whose properties have been destroyed by defective bricks containing excessive amounts of the mineral mica.
In a bid to allay the fears of thousands families whose homes are crumbling, the Minister said a “very significant enhancement and improvement” of the existing mica scheme will be agreed soon.
“The whole purpose of the talks is to get to a position whereby we can get houses rebuilt or repaired, have a system to do it properly and in a much faster timeline than might originally have been envisaged,” Mr Martin said on Wednesday.
The Taoiseach is in New York for a series of meetings at the UN General Assembly.
“This Government is committed to enhancing the original scheme that was there,” he told reporters.
He said that he understood the impact mica had had on homeowners and that he wanted to allow talks to continue.
The Government has faced huge criticism over its redress scheme for homeowners in Donegal, Mayo and other counties.
The Government must finally do the right thing and provide 100% redress for families whose homes are crumbling around them due to mica and pyrite – @PadraigMacL#MicaRedress #MicaProtest #defectiveblocks #100percentredress pic.twitter.com/wVIdeDdypH
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) September 22, 2021
The representative group have called for a compensation scheme that meets 100 per cent of the costs.
Mr McGrath appealed to Donegal TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn not to “pass judgment” yet on the new scheme.
“The Government has put in place a process to try to bring about a resolution to this issue,” the Fianna Fáil Minister added.
“I have listened to the heartfelt stories from the families who are impacted and I can only imagine what they’re going through, and the worry that they are having to carry every single day.
“The main point I want to make is that everything is on the table. The Government has ruled out nothing in relation to what would be needed here to support those families.
“There is an existing scheme up and running, which was broadly welcomed at the time when the details of it were announced in January of last year, and it opened up for applications in June of last year.
“A significant number of applications have come in, but the shortcomings of that scheme have also been highlighted.”
Mr Mac Lochlainn said families in the west of Ireland have been treated like “second class citizens”.
The Sinn Féin TD added: “This scandal has left deep scars in our community. It is agonising to see your neighbours, friends and family suffer in this way.
“They have been denied a fully funded 100% redress scheme. This is completely unacceptable and leaves families who have done nothing wrong with massive bills that they cannot afford to pay.”
He also criticised Tánaiste Leo Varadkar over comments he made about the impact a 100 per cent redress scheme would have on taxpayers.
Mr Varadkar said it was not the Government that covers the cost, but the “average working person”.
Mr Mac Lochlainn responded: “Such dib comments attempting to turn public opinion have a devastating impact on the families.
“It creates an anxiety and a fear that those leading this Government do not hear them and won’t do the right thing.
“Minister, you have to do the right thing. We were talking about people whose homes are literally crumbling around them.
“These are families who have worked hard, they have paid their taxes and they had saved hard to buy their home.”
Mr McGrath said there is a “deep appreciation” within Government of how serious the matter is.